Since we’re almost a month away until exhibition games start, I thought I’d start with predictions about the upcoming season. We’ll see how well my predicitions go:
#10. UMass-Lowell Riverhawks
It seems to be a universal acknowledgement that the Riverhawks will finish in the basement this year, and it’s easy to see why. Last year they finished dead last, with only 4 wins in Hockey East. Having lost a massive number of players after the 2009-2010 season, they understandably tanked, leading to Head Coach Blaise McDonald getting the boat, to be replaced by Division III coach Norm Bazin being hired. Despite the new hire, and the increasing maturity of these players, it’s hard to see much of an upside this year.
First, UML has little in the way of a solid goaltender. The job flipped between 3 goalies, the best of whom, Doug Carr, had a .896 save percentage and 3.63 GAA. That’s pretty poor stats, and while he will likely improve, it seems unlikely he’d transfer into a star goalie within the year.
In terms of defense, the cupboard is pretty bare there too. After graduations and a couple of defections, the Riverhawks have 2 defensemen who played a full year there last year, with a third who played only two-thirds of the games the past year, and hasn’t played a full year in his career. That leaves them with 3 freshmen defensemen expected to play every game, and a fourth player expected to step up his game in a big way. That’s a lot of pressure to put on them. Secondly, the defensive corp is small. Only one player clocks in above 6’0”, Tim Corcoran, who only played two-thirds of the games last year. A smaller defensive force will be hard to stop opposing forwards from driving on the net.
Finally, their offense is the possible bright spot on this team, They return the top 3 scorers on the team, and freshmen Joseph Pendenza had 10 goals last year. They have a lot of youth still (13 players on the roster listed as freshmen or sophomores), so it’ll be important for them to improve quickly in order to provide offense.
Finally, the unproven factor comes into play. Bazin has coached D-III, and assisted at several D-I schools, but Division I Head Coach is different, especially in the ultra-competitive Hockey East. Can Bazin prove himself quickly? Time will tell.
If UMass-Lowell intends to improve on last year, they’ll need a goalie to solidify himself rapidly, and improve his performance from last year. Their defense will need to do at least a decent job, and their offense will need to step up their game and score a lot more goals (they were tied with Vermont for 9th in Hockey East for goals scored). If they can, they could push up in the rankings, but for now they seem likely to stay stuck in 10th.
EDIT- Former coach is Blaise MacDonald, not Norm